Living with disappointment – Part 2

While Joseph served as a good example of processing disappointment well, Jonah demonstrates disappointment that empowered dissatisfaction in God. God’s mission for Jonah was simple; “go to Nineveh, …and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). But Jonah sailed in the opposite direction with no intention of obedience.

As the story goes, “the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). During that time Jonah had a rethink and obedience now seemed appealing. So, “the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land… Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:2-3). Good man!

Possibly the world’s quickest revival followed Jonah’s preaching as he walked through Nineveh. “The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). The king decreed, “let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 3:8-9). “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them” (Jonah 3:10). Praise God, you would think. But not defiant Jonah.

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:1-2). Jonah previously had the right expectations of God – mercy. But Jonah preferred justice for his Ninevite enemies, not mercy. Jonah’s heart was the problem, it was conflicted against God’s mercy.

Jonah had elevated his feelings of injustice to become anger towards God. His selfish and thankless conclusions vindicated him sitting on a hill complaining about God’s grace to the Ninevites. He wanted to “see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:3-5). Wake up Jonah! So, the Lord sent a plant which provided shade for burning Jonah, then a worm which ate the plant, then a burning hot wind which enraged Jonah even more (Jonah 4:6-8).

Enraged by the hungry worm and loss of shade, plus burning with anger at God’s mercy, sinful Jonah preferred death over watching the Ninevites experience mercy. To which the Lord replied, “you have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people…” (Jonah 4:10-11 NIV). Jonah was not entitled  to dictate who God could show mercy to, as stated in Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Jonah’s prejudices had become his god, and he was willing to die for them. He refused to accept God’s sovereign wisdom. He was unwilling to celebrate the loving compassion of a Saviour God. Sin won the battle for Jonah’s heart, but lost the war against the souls of Nineveh – PRAISE GOD! As we rejoice over God’s choices, entrusting life’s outcomes to Him, we are set free from failed expectations, resentment, and heart-breaking disappointment. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

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